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Tuesday's Top 5: Jake Arrieta earning rep as NL Central's top gun

1. Jake Arrieta, Chicago Cubs: The latest demonstration that the Cubs have a No. 1 starter whose name is not Jon Lester came with Arrieta's latest spin, his ninth straight quality start and his third in three turns against the Pirates. The Cubs' 5-0 win pulled them up to just three games behind Pittsburgh for the top wild-card slot.

As Arrieta put it afterward, “It's our job to continue to put the pressure on them and let them know we're coming for 'em,” Arrieta said.

If anyone is going to make it so, it's Arrieta. He's now 5-1 in seven starts and a 2.05 ERA against the Pirates, so if anyone he is the pitcher to turn to in a sudden-death play-in game against the Bucs. That's not the only credential he has as far as being the man to beat inside the division: Arrieta is also 4-1 career record with a 1.63 ERA against the Cardinals.

2. Scoreboard-watching in the NL East: Sure, the Mets were “just” facing the Marlins, while the Nationals were “only” facing the Diamondbacks, but with a third of the season to go, every game is going to be under a microscope, and little things such as Lucas Duda picking up his performance against lefties have a critical impact. The Mets' win was a pretty straightforward case of breaking through against a reliever who didn't have it, tearing into Mike Dunn in the eighth; the Nationals pulled off their own eighth-inning rally thanks to Wilson Ramos' two-run single to beat the Snakes 5-4. The Nationals' Jayson Werth might confidently asserts it's still their division to win, but they have two months to prove it.

3. Nelson Cruz, Seattle Mariners: Playing in Coors Field never hurts when you're a slugger, but one of the game's great streak hitters is on another tear, as Cruz homered in his fifth straight game and for the seventh time in his past 10 games to move between Mike Trout and Albert Pujols in the race for the HR crown. He's also fourth in the league in batting average, but before you get your hopes up over the fact that he has a shot at a Triple Crown, remember: He's a Mariner and would need a whole lot more people on base than they're likely to generate. Oh, and Seattle won.

4. Danny Duffy, Kansas City Royals: Trading for Johnny Cueto was the move the Royals needed to make, but some extra good news wouldn't hurt. The hope was that Yordano Ventura would be that guy, but Duffy's latest nifty spin beat the Tigers 5-1 was his fifth quality start in six turns, with a 2.29 ERA over that span. While K.C. can count on Cueto and Edinson Volquez up front, sorting out who their third starter might be in a postseason series is still something they have to sort out. Duffy's making a case that job might soon be his.

5. The Texas Rangers bullpen: The Astros are a team designed to beat you late with game-breaking power throughout the lineup, and it has worked well for them all season. When they pulled to within a run of the Rangers in the top of the sixth inning with the tying run on base and nobody out, you might have expected them to pull off another come-from-behind win. But Jeff Banister hooked Yovani Gallardo there and then and trusted this game's fate to Sam Freeman, Spencer Patton and Jake Diekman to get the game to closer Shawn Tolleson to seal a 4-3 win and lift Texas to .500. If Banister's getting a handle on what he has and what he can do with it, it'll go far in helping the Rangers make up for a rotation that has its limits if they're going to make a real run at a wild-card slot.

Christina Kahrl writes about MLB for ESPN. You can follow her on Twitter.